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A closer look at the appellate process here in Florida

Those who are found guilty of any sort of felony-level criminal offense understandably experience a host of emotions after the proceedings are finished and they are brought back to their holding cell, including fear, frustration and, of course, sadness.

As frightened, aggravated and distressed as a person in this situation might feel, it's nevertheless important for them to understand that there is a good chance that this is not the end of the road as far as the legal process is concerned. Indeed, they may have the option of pursuing an appeal.

In today's post, the first in a series, we will begin examining the appellate process here in Florida in an attempt to help people better understand their options in the wake of a criminal conviction.

The District Courts of Appeal

Any discussion of the appellate process in Florida must be prefaced by a brief examination of how exactly our state's court system is structured.

Florida does not have a single intermediate appellate court like many other states, but rather five separate intermediate appellate courts that handle both civil appeals and criminal appeals originating from one of the state's 20 Circuit Courts.

For example, the Fifth District Court of Appeal, located in Daytona Beach, hears all appeals from the 5th, 7th, 9th and 18th Circuit Courts, which includes Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in addition to the Orlando metro area.

The basics of the appellate process

When a person files an appeal, they are essentially asking the appellate court to review the decision of the lower court in order to determine whether a harmful legal error -- meaning one that influenced the outcome of the case -- occurred.

It's important for the appellant (i.e., the person pursuing the appeal) to understand that 1) an appeal does not afford them the opportunity to re-argue their case and 2) the three-judge panel considering their appeal does not serve as a quasi-jury. In other words, an appeal is not a trial. That is, an appeal does not reconsider the facts of a case. Instead, it is an examination of the legal correctness of the lower court's rulings.

Appeals are highly complicated matters governed by a complex set of regulations set forth in the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.

The federal courts also provide for appeals, but the procedures set forth in the Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure are very different from the Florida rules. Future posts will now take a closer look at the topic of criminal appeals, as well as what appellants can anticipate going forward.

At the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A., we have over three decades of experience handling appeals in both the state and federal courts. As such, we know what it takes to draft a highly persuasive appellate brief and present a compelling oral argument to the court. Please visit our website to learn more about our commitment to helping clients find relief under the law.